Poor people more likely to be savaged by dogs

So said a report in the Grauniad.  That was just the headline grabber; the article was about the use of statistics, more than anything else.  But the dog issue is interesting.  There are a few reasons that people from deprived backgrounds and areas are more likely to be attacked by dogs.  First, the breeds of dogs:  fashionable amongst the masses at the moment are bull terriers.  However nice Fifi is, she’s still a bull terrier.  Just like our Toby, a greyhound:  he’s a lovely hound, but he’ll eat your cat.  He can’t help it, and there’s no training him out of it.  Bull terriers have been bred for fighting and for cramping their powerful jaws over nice soft throats.  Good training, from puppyhood (we only got Toby in adulthood, and you can’t teach an old dog…), and a happy home will probably mean that these jaws are kept to munching Winalot or teddy bears.  But, second point, a lot of people – from whatever class/ background – don’t realise the amount of training that dogs need, and don’t realise that training’s often needed for the human as well as the dog.  If you’re inconsistent at all, the dog will notice; if you don’t mean what you say, the dog will notice.  You have to be alpha pack leader:  that’s hard to pull off if you by nature are not, and most people are not:  humans are pack animals too, and it stands to reason that more people will be led rather than lead.  I have seen many people who are not in control of their dog, and there are times when I have not been in control of mine:  entirely to do with me, and not the dog.

Thirdly, dogs need time and not to be left alone for huge periods of it.  If you have to work and leave your dog home alone for hours, of course it’s going to have a negative effect on the dog.  Fourthly, working breeds, such as terriers, need a lot of exercise – much more than a quick walk round the housing estate (they also need good food, not Bakers or Butchers or other similar crap; but this is expensive).  Lastly, violence has a lot to do with things.  Not necessarily physical or extreme violence, but the lack of quietness and contentment that accompanies lives full of scarcity.  Households where shouting is the norm will not produce placid dogs.

Dogs are not playthings or toys:  they are intelligent, working creatures.


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Sackbutts and Krauts

The Germans/ Austrians had a more lasting relationship with the sackbutt and its child, the trombone, than the British, French or Italians. When Handel wanted trombones for Israel in Egypt, it’s thought that he employed a group of touring German Pausane players.  St Mark’s in Venice, whose heyday was perhaps the time of Gabrieli, Monteverdi and large numbers of cornets and sackbutts, stopped employing trombonists in 1732.  Germany, on the other hand, liked her brass, not just keeping the trombone in circulation, but inventing new instruments or preserving older weird ones.  Bach used a high trumpet for the second Brandenburg (the trumpeter of the Bach Collegium Japan recreated it, with appalling effects) and the ‘lituo’ in his lovely O Jesu Christ, mein Lebens Licht.  (No one seems to be sure what the ‘lituo’ was, but it’s some sort of horn.)

Long after Britain had to rely on wandering German trombonists and Italy had stopped its abundance of brass, Mozart used a trombone to be the Last Trumpet in ‘Tuba mirum spargens’ in his Requiem.


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It’s depressing that something quite so wrong-headed can be not only discussed but encouraged by the government and parliament.

1) Who cares if a businessman can get to Birmingham or London half-an-hour sooner?  Why the hell are they travelling anyway?  Skype it or stay at home.  We need to travel less if we are to get anywhere near the carbon cuts that we need to reach in order to survive in anything like a continuing society or even race…

2) Why do we need to provide yet another spoke to London?  Apparently this HS2 will mean more business in the midlands and north west.  Bollocks.  It’ll just mean more commutable areas to London, with resultant rising house prices, etc.

3) Why do we need to batter our wildlife even more?  It’s bad enough with all these extra houses which we ‘need’ (more bollocks:  between empty homes and getting northerners and Scots back up north, we really have all the homes we need already), but HS2 will destroy ancient woodland and slice wildlife corridors.  We are not the only species in Britain, and we can’t survive without all of the other ones.

Aaaaaaaaaaargh.  When will Economics be seen for what it is:  unsustainable hogwash?

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Knight of the Burning Pestle

The new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe is fabulous – the woodwork dotingly authentic, the ceiling work convincingly Renaissance.  The play is an appropriate Jacobean comedy, with Jacobean costumes and a nice eye for period detail.

WHY was the music so anachronistic, then?  There were a couple of echt Jacobean tunes (Jolly red nose, for example), but it was largely disgusting 20th-century saccharine – so much so that I was really put off the entertainment.  It came from the backside of Nigel Hess, a TV composer of some merit, who really ought to have known better.  The band was largely authentic, with a cornet, viols, gitarres – but not entirely:  there was a modern violin. ?????

Emma Kirkby once pointed out, sadly, that TV and radio shows always used music of a later period than the one the programme was about.  Whilst the Globe lot are super-careful about visual details, they don’t seem to care about the accuracy of musical accompaniment.

Why does music, of all the arts, have to suffer like this?  Music was our first art; it is our premier art.  Let’s all strive to be a little more musically literate.

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Everyday sexism…

Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph the scantily-clad woman on a display stand for some tool or other when I went into Mackay’s in Cambridge a couple of months ago, but here are some other delights:





And here was one I found on a graphic design website – definitely putting the ‘graphic’ into graphic design.


Where is the wall-of-shame website that I can post these on?

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Claire MacDonald’s Parsnip Cake

Parsnip Cake – yes, really. C MacD says ‘It is delicious but I’m not brave enough to put “Carrot or Parsnip Cake” on the menu – we still call it Kinloch Gateau.’  It’s from her book, Sweet Things.

“Just under 1/2 pt sunflower seed oil
12oz caster sugar  [I only use 8oz – quite sweet enough]
3 eggs
6oz plain flour
1 level tspn each of bicarb, baking powder and cinnamon
1/2 level tspn salt
8oz grated raw parsnips [a large parsnip, of the sort we specialise in growing.  They’re a bugger to get out of the ground.]

Filling and icing: 6oz each of cream cheese and butter
8oz icing sugar
1 tspn vanilla essence [a bit of lemon, too, I think]

8″ cake tin.

Mix sunflower oil and caster sugar thoroughly. Add eggs one by one. Add flour, bicarb, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and then the parsnip. Put into cake tin; bake at moderate oven for c.45-50 mins.  [Our oven temperature gauge has Hot or Very Hot.  This was at the top end of Hot.  About 180 or so.] (Do skewer test to see if cooked.) Turn onto wire rack. When cool, cut cake into 2 layers.

Whizz cream cheese and butter till smooth. Add icing sugar and vanilla essence and whizz till no lumps of sugar. (Can all be done by hand, if you’re feeling fit, but add icing sugar gradually, and then the vanilla.) Fill and ice the cake.

Better made a couple of days in advance.”  [But you’ll have to hide it.]

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Dido and Aeneas

I ‘produced’ Dido and Aeneas last Sunday.  Everyone else did the hard work; I sat down and said, ‘why don’t you do x?’.  We had no budget and only slightly more stage, but it’s amazing what you can do with a few costumes and some delicious singing.

The music’s so great.  It can first seem a bit of froth, like the words, but it’s so much more, and gets deeper on every hearing.  I love the way Purcell gives Dido a ground bass as her first and last arias; I love, too, that a ground bass is the centre point, the song about how Acteon’s hounds ripped him to pieces – a (correct) presage of doom.  (Agathe Peyrat sang this with gory relish.)  This time, I suddenly realised that the couplet ‘Thus on the fatal Banks of Nile, Weeps the deceitful Crocodile’ is much more than the silly rhyme is appears, but really packs a punch – or does, at least, in the hands of the wonderful Grace Durham.  I had tingles down my spine at that moment.

Toby the Greyhound had a short but starring role, as he accompanied Aeneas (who brandished an antler, rather than a boar’s tushes – I don’t have the latter) onto the second act.  He was a bit bemused at having to rush past his audience, who were clearly only sitting there to stroke him, but he nonetheless performed the Hunting Hound immaculately.

I was so impressed by the cast, all Guildhall students – not least the first years, who lost their  inhibitions very quickly, and lolled their tongues and hunched their backs like true witches.  I want the Sorceress (Matthew Sandy) as a pet:  he sings like a dream (switching ridiculously easily between tenor and countertenor), acts superbly AND makes his own costumes.  WOW!!!

And Dido and Belinda made my dad weep.  Which was one of the objects of the exercise.  I had Dido (the wonderful Grace Durham) sing her ‘When I am laid’ almost motionless, just holding Belinda’s hands; then walking off, through the audience, in the ritornello, with Belinda looking out after her.  Belinda kept this pose throughout the last chorus.  Magic.

I soooooo want to do it again, with the same cast.  They were fab.  (Needless to say, the accompanying ‘orchestra’ was as professional as ever.  The MD, Catherine Norton, is heading back to New Zealand when her visa runs out in June.  WHAT are we doing letting her go????)

The cast was:
Dido:  Grace Durham
Aeneas:  Daniel Hawkins
Belinda:  Sarah Loveys
Sorceress:  Matthew Sandy
Chorus:  Agathe Peyrat, Elizabeth Desbruslais, Matthew Healy, Adam Maxey
And starring Toby the Greyhound as himself

Enough gushing, darlings.

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